Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith Announces Dissolution of Deceptive Veterans Charity
Maryland Joins 24 States in Settlement
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith and Attorney General Brian Frosh today announced that Maryland and 24 other states have approved a settlement with VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois nonprofit corporation, resulting in the organization’s dissolution.
Since March 2015, VietNow – which also uses the name VeteransNow – had been raising money using deceptive telemarketing solicitation scripts. In response to the investigation by attorneys general from multiple states, including Maryland, VietNow admitted that it had not funded any programs assisting veterans. In addition, other VietNow scripts claimed that VietNow provided “medical facilities and treatment” to veterans but VietNow’s response identified no such programs. According to VietNow’s own fundraising report, less than 5% of funds raised went to its charitable programs. VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide.
“Scam artists who falsely claim to help veterans actually harm reputable veterans’ charities who, in fact, provide essential programs and services that support our troops and their families,” said Secretary of State Wobensmith. “We urge potential donors to be wary. These scammers are on the lookout for ways to take advantage of donors, often preying on those who want to help veterans. If you choose to give, please donate to well-established charities. We urge donors to check our website to determine if a charity is eligible to solicit in Maryland. Remember, give wisely and be wary of sketchy charities.”
“Scam veteran charities prey upon the generosity and goodwill of consumers who choose to support our veterans and military families,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Nationwide, we’ve stopped yet another sham charity from defrauding the public.”
The settlement appoints a receiver to dissolve VietNow and also obtains injunctive relief against VietNow’s directors and officers. The settlement also requires their cooperation in investigations of VietNow’s professional fundraisers. Upon dissolution, VietNow’s remaining funds will be paid to two national and well-respected veterans’ charities, Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.
About the Office of the Secretary of State
The Secretary of State registers and regulates charitable organizations and their professional solicitors who operate in Maryland. Together with the assistance of the Maryland Attorney General, the Secretary of State enforces Maryland’s charitable giving laws to ensure that donations are used for their intended purpose. Maryland donors may visit http://sos.maryland.gov/Charity/Pages/Giving-Wisely.aspx on the Secretary of State’s website for tips on how to give wisely to charities.
Any questions about the settlement can be directed to Josaphine B. Yuzuik, Assistant Attorney General at (410) 260-3855.
Individuals who think that they may have been a victim of a deceptive or illegal charitable solicitation, may call the Charities and Legal Services Division, Secretary of State’s Office at 410-974-5521 or 1-800-825-4510.